Bayern Munich laid down the biggest marker yet of the current favourites to lift the Champions League trophy with their 7-1 demolition of AS Roma on Tuesday night and Pep Guardiola is once again proving his worth.
Despite the Bundesliga champions' superior squad and financial power, the Serie A club had gone into the game with a surprisingly confident air and did not sit back as expected in the early stages. They get some credit for ambition, but there was never any way it was going to work against this side.
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Arjen Robben started the rout after only nine minutes with a delightful curled finish across goal, kinking inside the abysmal Ashley Cole. The former Chelsea star was actually removed at half-time in response to his first half horror show.
Mario Götze, Robert Lewandowski and Robben for a second time made scoring look like the easiest thing in the world against a shellshocked Roma side, before Thomas Müller made it five from the spot.
Gervinho - who was the only Roma player to emerge with a modicum of credit - pulled one back in the second half, but Bayern replied by scoring two more, this time through substitutes Franck Ribery and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Rudi Garcia came out after the match and took the blame for the embarrassing defeat, claiming that his intention to play Guardiola at his own game imploding was behind it. While it is an admirable stance to take, the Bavarian club were in the mood to do that to any team they were facing.
it was further evidence they are starting to really click
It is looking like Barcelona all over again for Guardiola at Germany's biggest club, as they are looking untouchable in the Bundesliga once again, but this year are into their stride in the Champions League much earlier than last season - this is bad news for everyone else.
Saturday saw them prepare perfectly in the league for the Roma encounter by smashing Werder Bremen 6-0 at the Allianz arena and maintaining their four-point lead at the summit of the table. It took their goal difference to 19 and was further evidence they are starting to really click.
Two draws in their first four league fixtures of the season, as well as only a tight win over Manchester City at home in their opening Champions League fixture, was viewed as something of an uncertain start to the campaign. But since their goalless draw at struggling Hamburg, Guardiola's side have won six games on the trot, conceding only once and scoring 24 times.
Ok, thrashing sides in a domestic competition that struggles to provide a single rival that can viably challenge them to the title is no great feat, but Tuesday was something else. Roma are second in Serie A and are current in decent form.
Few people would have predicted such an obliteration, especially after the Giallorossi performed so well at Manchester City in the previous round of fixtures. However, City's throwing away of a two-goal lead at CSKA Moscow was further evidence that they cannot transfer their winning mentality in the Premier League to Europe's Premier competition.
All of this is a sign that Guardiola is really starting to mould this Bayern team into his image and last season was a transition year needed to outgrow some teething problems. With the greater dribbling and mobility that comes from replacing Mario Mandzukic with Lewandowski, Bayern seem even more potent in attack.
Götze is starting to take on responsibility more easily, while Phillipp Lahm, David Alaba and Xabi Alonso have a mesmerising rotation going on in midfield/defence that is difficult to describe. Robben and Müller continue to provide their usually high levels of brilliance, so the improved support for them is a scary prospect for opposition.
Guardiola's best side at Barcelona were untouchable. Even Real Madrid's astronomical spending could not make much of a dent in the dominance of the Camp Nou club until signs of burnout started to show in the brilliant coach as the end of his time there.
First year growing pains
Madrid were the side that ruined things in Europe for Guardiola last season, with Carlo Ancelotti's brand of devastating fast and powerful counter-attacking undermining the possession football favoured by Bayern.
This season, with the surprise purchase of Xabi Alonso from the Santiago Bernabeu club, Guardiola looks as though he has prepared his side to deal with any eventuality and it is hard to look past them for winners of this year's competition.
Claims that he was the best manager in the world while at Barcelona were often countered with the argument that he was lucky to inherit Lionel Messi and an unusual number of very gifted players. Guardiola was told (probably not to his face) that success in another country was needed before the title could be bestowed upon him.
At the risk of speaking too soon, it looks as though he is about to do exactly that with a Bayern Munich side that are ready to realise the total football vision he impressed at Barcelona.
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